// Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe says local retailers & jobs are under threat due to lack of gov’t help
// Leicester Mayor Peter Soulsby has issued a similar warning
// Leicester was dragged back into a localised lockdown on June 30 after a spike in local Covid-19 infections
Retailers and jobs in locked-down Leicester are being threatened by a lack of government support as the rest of the country opens up for businesses, the Leicester East MP has said.
Labour’s Claudia Webbe wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak urging him to provide “desperately needed financial support” for the city, whose residents are “anxious and confused” as the rest of England enjoys a gradual loosening of restrictions.
Webbe also outlined concerns ministers were too slow to give Leicester County Council the data and information “essential to tackling the virus at a local level”.
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The city became the first place in the UK to have tight restrictions reimposed on June 30, after a spike in local Covid-19 infections.
Business and Industry Minister Nadhim Zahawi has said there were “no plans” for any further aid measures, beyond those such as furlough and business grants put in place at the start of the pandemic.
Leicester Mayor Peter Soulsby has accused Health Secretary Matt Hancock of breaking promises and called the situation “very bad news”, while Liz Kendall, Labour MP for Leicester West, said the situation was “totally unacceptable”.
In a letter to the Chancellor dated July 8, Webbe said she supported local lockdowns but said “the government’s response to the situation in Leicester has left people anxious and confused”.
“Moreover, the government has a duty that those areas that do experience sudden outbreaks are assisted and supported quickly,” she wrote.
“It is therefore disappointing that the government has no plans to protect the businesses in my constituency of Leicester East and across Leicester.
“This lack of support threatens the survivability of businesses across my constituency and ultimately the employment of many of my constituents.
“Please advise if the Treasury has conducted an economic assessment of not providing additional support to businesses in Leicester during the extension of the full lockdown?
“If not, does the Treasury have plans to do so?”
Since the initial nationwide lockdown on March 23, Leicester City Council says it has supported more than 6000 local businesses with grants totalling £70 million.
It said £10 million of earmarked grant cash already sitting in the local authority’s coffers could be used to help ailing businesses – but it needs governmental permission to spend it.
“This is very bad news,” Soulsby said in a statement issued on Thursday.
“Mr Hancock did promise us that the government would support businesses in Leicester, but now they are saying they won’t.
“Government do not have to pay us any further money to support businesses, we simply need permission to spend the funds we have.
“We have come up with a plan where we could provide more help to Leicester businesses by extending both the national and our discretionary grants schemes, as well as supporting those excluded from the national scheme – particularly factories, manufacturing and independent retail, hospitality and leisure.
“Extending these schemes rather than starting a new one means we could pay money out quickly – if the government will let us.”
with PA Wires